I’ve been in the mood for some light reading recently, the type of entertaining reads that can be finished in one night. Usually that would have meant an Agatha Christie novel or some other golden-age crime novel but this time I made a new acquaintance, Worrals. Worrals is a young WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) pilot during WWII with a strong tendency to stumble on spies. The books are written by Captain W. E. Johns, more famous for his Biggles books.
I’ve got a soft spot for Biggles, I remember creeping back behind the armchair as a child to borrow my mother’s old copies (they happened to be placed in the least accessible spot). I still pick them up occasionally in second-hand stores and spend a few hours with mindless adventures. However, what’s blatantly missing from most of the Biggles books is women. The setting gives a partial excuse and anyway I prefer it to the open misogyny found in some other novels from the same time so I’ve mostly turned a blind eye to the omission. But it meant that when I heard that he had also written a series around a WAAF pilot I was interested but sceptic. I needn’t have worried, Worrals is a great character. She feels like Biggles’ little sister, same courage, same clear head in the face of danger, just with somewhat less experience (admittedly neither Biggles nor Worrals are very deep characters). She also have a very modern attitude to any suggestions that she may be less suitable for some jobs because she’s a woman.
Plot-wise they are not as good as the best Biggles books but neither is Biggles most of the time. I’ve read the first four books in the series and enjoyed all of them but liked the first one best. The first four (at least) are all written and published during WWII and that context made the books (which are really simple adventure stories) a lot more interesting.
Used Worrals books are not easy to find in my part of the world but the first three have recently been reprinted and in very nice editions (proper binding, good paper, I just wish they had kept the original illustrations).*
*No, I’m not sponsored in any way, I bought my copies myself.